A Production Celebrating NSH & Black Newark

Symphony Hall’s place in the history of Black Newark is remarkable and uncontested. Through the years, many of the nation’s top stars graced its elegant stage. Through narration, reenactments of oral histories, music, and cinematic and photographic montage, The Soul of Newark Symphony Hall explores the deep connections between the social, cultural, and political lives of Black Newark with the transformational space of the Hall.

In the midst of the struggles of Jim Crow, Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Lives Matter, the Hall has existed as a respite, as an energizing place to dream, live, love, breathe. Thus, we learn in this presentation produced by musician and scholar Guthrie Ramsey how a brick and mortar building served as a crucible for Black citizens’ ideas about social empowerment, cultural identity and pleasure. Indeed, as the great Newark-born poet Amiri Baraka – whose funeral with 3000 mourners was held at the Hall in 2014 – once wrote, “the music and the people is the same.”

This endeavor is generously supported by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and a grant from the Essex County Division of Cultural and Historic Affairs.*

About Dr. Guthrie Ramsey

Dr. Guthrie Ramsey is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania and helms this multimedia production as the director and curator. He brings to this project his perspective as a prolific music historian. His published works include Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop, The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History and the Challenge of Bebop, and African American Music: Grove Music Essentials. On April 23, 2020, Dr. Ramsey was elected to the prestigious American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

How to Get Involved

Designed as both an educational and community engagement initiative, there are multiple opportunities for you to get involved.

Open Casting Call

Take part in our online open casting call, a chance to be one of the production’s stars. Fill out the form and upload your audition video to YouTube, including the hashtag #TheSoulofNSH in the description.

Submissions will be reviewed by three to-be-announced judges in a virtual, live streamed event. Casting decisions will be revealed at the end of the show.

View More Information & Apply

Contribute Your Memories

Have a memory you’d like to share in the form of photos or videos taken at Newark Symphony Hall?

Submit Your Memory

Watch the Shows

We will be announcing the dates for related shows soon. Watch our event page, or better yet sign up for our mailing list, so you don’t miss the news.

* This program is made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the NEH or NJCH.

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